Carol Baby has always known exactly how she would spend her retirement. Ever since 1978, when she took in Lady the Lurcher, she’s been determined to help care for these gentle, loving dogs.
Carol says: “I spotted Lady at the vet’s when I brought my own dog for a check-up. She was exhausted from chasing the car that abandoned her. I fell in love with her there and then and just had to take her home.”
Until then Carol (67) had only ever owned collies, but Lady won her over. And thanks to almost 13 years of volunteering for nearby charity Greyhound Rescue West of England (GRWE) in her retirement, Carol is now certain that greyhounds and lurchers really do make perfect pets. “Lurchers belong to the same group of dogs as greyhounds and whippets,” explains Carol. “They’re very gentle, and well suited to older people.
“Indoors, they are much the same as greyhounds – both will happily curl up and sleep,” she continues. “Despite their racing prowess, greyhounds are real couch potatoes and lurchers will only show off their incredible agility skills when they’re out and about. They can be very clever, too. For example, Lady would cleverly pilfer the meat from any unattended burgers when we had barbecues,” Carol laughs. “She was such a relaxed dog and would always fit in.”
'Lurchers are the perfect pets'
Today, Carol and husband Bob (78) share their home with 12-year-old greyhound Foxy, and 13-year-old lurcher Ash.
After rescuing Lady (who sadly passed away in 1984), Carol’s dedication to homeless dogs went up a notch when she retired. “I’d just adopted Ash as a puppy from GRWE, but I also wanted to volunteer, answering their phones,” says Carol. The role soon caught Carol's interest and she started taking dog behaviour courses, funded out of her own pocket.
Suddenly, everyone wanted Carol’s advice. “Co-workers were asking me to visit homes to check dogs’ progress. Other volunteers were taking similar courses because they were so invaluable.” Carol’s initiative was the perfect opportunity to begin an official Behavioural Support team at GWRE, which she has fronted since 2006.
These days, Carol visits the rehoming centre weekly to assess new dogs for their specific needs. Otherwise she is on call, visiting rehomed dogs to assist with teething troubles and any further issues. “Being retired means I can get to a call fairly quickly. Ironically, I don’t really get weekends any more,” Carol smiles. “I’ve been working full pelt for several years and have sometimes questioned whether I can go on. But I was lucky enough to take early retirement, and of course I care very deeply for these dogs.”
And that care runs throughout the charity, which painstakingly pairs its dogs with new owners. “We find a dog to suit the particular person,” Carol explains. “A first-time owner would never cope with a challenging dog, for example. Having a dog should be a joy, so we try to match personalities and the ability to mix with other animals and people. Owners must be experienced to take on a dog with issues. And though we always hope a dog will stay in its new home, we insist they come back if the match doesn’t work. Some centres will pass an animal on and run, so to speak, but we have a responsibility to dogs and owners.”
Indeed GWRE was named Animal Charity Team of the Year in 2013, commending their long-term approach to care, and the charity has received lots of positive feedback from the public. “One gentleman wrote to us, ‘I am so thrilled with the dog you chose for me. If I ever want another wife, I know where to come!’ ”
'Having a dog should be a joy, so we try to match personalities'
Now Carol has written Lurchers As Pets: A Guide to Care and Understanding. It’s her second book – the first was about greyhounds and did so well that the publishers asked Carol to continue. “The beauty is that this book would come in handy for any dog owner,” says Carol. “There’s information on behaviour training, games, keeping children safe around dogs, medication and minor ailment advice, and even puppy care. I’m donating any proceeds from sales to GWRE – every little helps.”
If you’re thinking of getting another pet, why not try giving a rescue dog a loving home? “Dogs are part of my existence and my being,” Carol says. “My dogs really do shape my life.”
- Lurchers as Pets: A Guide to Care and Understanding, £14.99. Call 0700 078 5092 or visit www.grwe.com to buy a copy.
Carol’s top tips for taking on a rescue dog
- Ask yourself: would a rescue dog fit into your household? Are there other pets or people to consider? Could you exercise your dog despite bad weather and other commitments?
- Look at what is offered by the rescue centre. Are their dogs vaccinated, microchipped and neutered? Are they assessed behaviourally?
- Try to rescue from a centre that provides re-homing support, whether over the phone or with home visits.
- A good rehoming centre will know their dogs and have a good idea of which is best suited to you. Try to be enthusiastic about their suggestion, even if you had your heart set on another dog. That one might not have been suitable.
- To find out more about rehoming a dog call GRWE on 0700 078 5092, or visit www.grwe.com. Alternatively try Dogs Trust (0207 837 0006, www.dogstrust.org.uk) or Blue Cross (0300 777 1897, www.bluecross.org.uk)
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